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Assessing erosion processes associated with establishment of coal seam gas pipeline infrastructure in Queensland, Australia

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting  162461210.(doi:10.13031/aim.20162461210)
Authors:   Cameron A. Vacher, Diogenes L. Antille, Neil I. Huth, Steven R. Raine
Keywords:   Environmental footprint, Erosion processes modeling, Hydrologic processes, Sediment transport.


In Queensland, Australia, the largest known, proven, onshore reserves of coal seam gas (CSG) are found in the Surat and Bowen Basins, which occupy an area of approximately 300,000 km2. This area includes both grazing and highly-productive cropping lands. Establishment of CSG-related infrastructure such as pipelines and associated right of way to transport gas and water from extraction points through to processing and export facilities is one of the major types of land disturbance observed in this region. Pipeline right of way areas include trench lines as well as the adjoining traffic zones required for trench line construction, pipe installation and access to sites. The primary forms of disturbance within the right of way areas include: (1) Soil compaction and changes in hydraulic properties, (2) Changes in soil chemistry such as carbon and nutrients, and exposure of potentially reactive or poorer quality subsoil (e.g., saline, sodic or acidic subsoil), (3) Changes in texture due to risk of soil blending and layer inversion, and (4) Changes in topography and natural drainage lines due to soil leveling, topsoil stripping and stockpiling, subsidence, and establishment of surface erosion control infrastructure. These disturbances contribute to poor vegetation establishment, tunnel and surface erosion, further influenced by lack of surface cover, with continuing decline in soil productivity and functions, and increased risk of sediment and nutrient discharge to watercourses. Impacts of soil compaction, surface cover, soil physico-chemical properties, and changing hydrology were measured to parametrize the Water Erosion Prediction Program (WEPP) and SIBERIA landform evolution models. Both models provided a reasonably good indication of the sensitivity of soil and field conditions to potential degradation processes caused by CSG pipeline right of way installations. The landform modeling also provided an indication that within the assessed field layout and soil type, the industry practice of installing a mound to account for settlement or subsidence of soil in the trench does not generate greater erosion rates than undisturbed field areas, whilst unmanaged settlement or subsidence has the potential to generate significantly higher erosion, and therefore greater potential for gully development. Results derived from this work will inform industry guidelines for improved management of the soil resource for joint CSG-agricultural lands.

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